Despite the old saying, what you don't know really can hurt you, especially when it comes to accessing your workers' compensation benefits. It’s important to know these 5 common myths and the real truth behind them.
Myth #1: I Can't Collect Workers' Compensation Benefits Unless I'm a Full-Time Employee
Louisiana law requires businesses to provide workers' compensation coverage, even if they have just one employee. Coverage is available to full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers beginning on their first day of employment. Independent contractors and subcontractors may also be provided workers' compensation benefits in some circumstances.
There are a few exceptions to the coverage rule, including workers for a private residence, private unincorporated farms, and certain musicians or performers. Refer to the Louisiana Workforce Commission website for details.
Myth #2: If I Caused My Work Injury I Can't Get Workers' Compensation Benefits
Accidents happen. Maybe you were distracted and slipped and fell because you didn't see a wet floor sign. Maybe you cut your hand while trying to operate an unfamiliar piece of equipment. However, fault is not a factor is workers' compensation claims. You can collect even if your own inattentiveness or inexperience contributed to the accident.
Drug or alcohol abuse is the only exception to the no-fault rule. If you were under the influence at the time you were hurt, it is assumed that your impairment is the reason for your injury. The only way you can receive benefits in this case is by proving that your drug or alcohol use was not a factor. For example, if you hurt your foot when a coworker drove a forklift into the area where you were performing your regular duties, the injury is your coworker's fault and not related to your substance abuse.
Myth #3: I Can Wait to See If I Get Better Before Filing A Workers' Compensation Claim
If you're the sort of person who hates doctors and unnecessary paperwork, you may be tempted to see if your injury heals without treatment. However, this strategy can cost you dearly.
Louisiana law provides you with 30 days to report a work injury to your employer. If you miss this deadline, you could lose your right to benefits regardless of how serious your injury turns out to be. To protect yourself, it's best to report all injuries as soon as possible even if you believe the injury is minor.
After you provide notice of your condition, your employer should complete a Louisiana Department of Labor Form 1007 (Employer Report of Injury or Illness) for the Office of Workers' Compensation. Ask for a copy of this report for your own records.
Myth #4: I Have to See the Doctor My Employer Provides
Louisiana law allows you to see your own doctor for treatment, even if he is not included on the list of approved doctors provided by your employer. However, you can accidentally forfeit your right to choose a physician by hastily seeking treatment. The law states, "If the employee is treated by any physician to whom he is not specifically directed by the employer or insurer, that physician shall be regarded as his choice of treating physician."
Myth #5: My Employer Can Punish Me for Trying to Get Workers' Compensation Benefits
"Retaliatory discharge" or "wrongful termination" in response to a claim for workers' compensation benefits is illegal under Louisiana law. However, your employer is generally allowed to terminate your employment if you're determined to be medically unable to perform your required duties.
State law doesn't require your employer to allow you to return to your job when you recover from your injury, but federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act may offer additional projection in the event of a serious and permanently disabling injury. If you believe you've been treated unfairly due to your request for workers' compensation benefits, it's in your best interests to consult an attorney immediately.
If you've been injured on the job you need to speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents access their workers' compensation benefits, so they can move forward with their lives after a work-related injury. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 for your free, no obligation case review. Appointments are available at six convenient locations throughout the state.